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tonight on "nightline," a storm-ravaged community reaching its boiling point. >> we're going to die. we're going to freeze! >> desperate for food, fuel and supplies. our team is on the ground in a devastated staten island. ball lot patrol. in a presidential race this tight, every vote counts. but across the country, a controversial anti-voter fraud group is raising concern. >> there's somebody out here trying to scare people. and, battleground wander. from cozy diners to bluegrass jams, my co-anchor bill weir travels across the swing state of virginia to find out what it will take to win the hearts of the voters who will determine this election. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," november
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1st, 2012. >> good evening, i'm terry moran. and tonight, we bring you a fresh crisis in a community already decimated by superstorm sandy. tensions are running high over a dwindling supply of vital fuel and supplies on staten island. perhaps the least well known of new york city's five borrows. just a short ferry ride from manhattan, smack dab in the middle of new york harbor. so, that means it bore the brunt of the devastating flood surge. so, tonight, as search andless kupt continues, my co-anchor cynthia mcfadden is there. good evening, cynthia. >> reporter: good evening, terry. massive disaster are composed of small tragedies, one that played out behind me. you may just be able to make out a staircase that used to lead to a house where mother, father and 13-year-old daughter lived. only the mother survived. those stories are far too common out here in staten island. >> when is the government
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coming? >> reporter: it was a desperate cry for help. >> we're going to die, if we get killed with the weather, we're going to die! >> reporter: in staten island, donna pleaded with her senators for more food, gasoline and clothing. >> we are -- >> we got 90-year-old people! >> reporter: this is one of the hardest-hit communities in torqnew york city. thousands still without power, many homeless. 19 people dead, including this father and son, found locked in a final embrace. overwhelmed by a violent surge of water, residents describe a tsunami-like wave as high as 20 feet that devastated entire neighborhoods. >> it was coming in, rushing, like a rapids. it was just coming, it was just curving around that corner and rushing down. >> reporter: the water may be receding, but the frustration on staten island seems to be growing. >> fema won't help us. >> reporter: and local officials pleaded for more supplies.
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>> they cannot go on. this is america. it's not a third world nation. >> reporter: one even attacking the re cross, which just arrived here today. >> people are buried in their own homes. nothing to eat, nothing to drink. >> reporter: but today, in the tottenville section of staten island, a neighborhood almost completely destroyed be i the storm, we saw relief in action. >> so, they got pizza, they got socks and gloves. come on over. >> reporter: this used to be mike abruzzo's home. >> my youngest daughter yesterday, faith, said, daddy, i want to go home. i just told her that, it's going to be awhile, hon. she don't understand. she's 6. >> reporter: almost nothing remains. except for a few small tokens. while we were there, neighbors arrive with his wedding picture, found several blocks away. like so many we talked to, he repeated over and over, "at least my family is safe."
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his neighbors across the street were not so lucky. two of them died the night of the storm. >> this is the whole yard, all this. and it's just -- there's nothing here. my dad's house, both of them are over there. >> reporter: oh, the bathtub. mike is an electrician. most of what he has in this world is tied up in this house that no longer exists. his girls don't know what happened yet. they've been staying with grandma. >> we evacuated sunday afternoon, figured, boarded the house up and, i have two children, two daughter s so, i wasn't going so stick around. >> reporter: and one plate. one beautiful christmas plate. >> christmas plate. >> reporter: that's going to be a special plate at your house. mike does not feel he's been left to fend for himself. while we're here, police and politicians swarm by, including councilman vincent anezzio, who represents the south shore of staten island. >> i've been here since day one.
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this is my community. i was with people throughout the storm itself and i think the city response has been great. >> reporter: as night fell, the street took on a distinctly new feel. we meet dezzy, who's lived here for 20 years. here we go. he agrees to show me his house. it's destroyed. >> yeah. >> reporter: he's doing his best to figure it all out, but in conditions like these, it's hard. >> my refrigerator. >> reporter: your refrigerator is lying down. >> just the way you see how everything looks right now, that's how my life feels right now, a mess. just -- i don't know what to do. i just don't know what to do, but i got to just do something. ill just can't stay here anymore. >> reporter: as much as he's loved it here, dezzy plans to move, as does mike. both men say the risk is too great, the loss o painful to live through again. >> that is staten island. thanks to supt ya for that. one note. fema items us their team's been
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on staten island for two days now. they're going to be shelters to help people get registered for assistant. that's from fema. just ahead, we're going to turn to politics now. with the presidential election just days away, we investigate charges that a controversial voter fraud group is targeting minorities likely to vote for barack obama. i'm a conservative investor. i invest in what i know. i turned 65 last week. i'm getting married. planning a life. there are risks, sure. but, there's no reward without it. i want to be prepared for the long haul. i see a world bursting with opportunities. india, china, brazil, ishares, small-caps, large-caps, ishares. industrials. low cost. every dollar counts. ishares. income. dividends. bonds. i like bonds. ishares. commodities. diversification. choices. my own ideas. ishares. i want to use the same stuff the big guys use. ishares.
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with terry moran. >> politics now. with just five days until the presidential election, the race simply could not be closer. so, why is one powerful group using a little known law that allows them to challenge the right of their fellow citizens to vo
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to? they say they are fighting voter fraud. critics say it is suppression. abc's dan harris set out to investigate for your voice, your vote. >> reporter: teresa sharp is a grandmother who says she's voted in every election since she was 18. she's even served as a poll worker. >> voting, to me, is like, sacred. >> reporter: so, imagine her surprise when she got this letter in the mail. >> dear mrs. sharp. you are hereby note if ied that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector under rc-3503.24, whatever that is. >> reporter: her sons christopher and herbert jr. received similar letters. so his her daughters. and her elderly aunt, too. >> there's somebody out here trying to scare people into not voting. >> reporter: but who? who prompted the county government to send out these letters? the answer, a grassroots
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organization called true the vote. true the vote believes voter fraud is a sleeping national epidemic. these are their recruitment videos. >> willful fraudulent behavior. >> people voting who are not the people who they said they were. >> reporter: true the vote has enlisted and trained an army of citizen volunteers to challenge voters in the name of what they call voter integrity. it sounds admirable, even patriotic. but teresa and other democrats say it's not about voter integrity but about voter suppression. specifically, trying to intimidate minorities and students who might vote for president obama. >> they're basically wanting to say black people are dumb. no, we are not. >> reporter: reset out to learn about true the vote. we found it its founder and leader is this woman, who travels the country speaking about how voter fraud is a hidden menace, threatening the fabric of our democracy. in light of all the controversy, she agreed to sit down with us for her first national
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television interview. is your goal really to end voter fraud or is your goal really to intimidate voters who disagree with you politically and scare them away from the polls? >> our goal, really, is to encourage citizens to get involved in the process. it has been a continued shock and disappointment, frankly, to hear these allegations that continue to be levelled at us. it's unfortunate that there are those who have tried to take this and twist it into something that it's not. >> reporter: she started true the vote three years ago, after serving as a poll watcher in houston and she says witnessing things that disturbed her. >> we recognize, there's -- something's not quite right. >> reporter: they are doing a community service, they say, by making sure there's no voter fraud. >> right. just the poor black neighborhoods, right? everybody else is clean. you know, we're the dirty people, we're the fraudulent folks. >> reporter: she smells a rat.
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she feels like she's being targeted because she's black. >> teresa has nothing to worry about. our citizens going into this race blind. >> reporter: you are not in any way directly targeting these communities? >> no, absolutely not. i mean, this is literally nothing more than citizens doing what is legal little allowed, what anyone can do, in an effort to better our overall process. and there's nothing more to it than that. >> reporter: she insists her group is nonpartisan, just as the videos claim. >> true the vote is a nonpartisan initiative developed by citizens for citizens. >> reporter: you run a tea party group. >> right. >> reporter: your organization has been recently shown to have donated $5,000 to a republican organization. that doesn't sound nonpartisan. >> well, you lined up a lot of things there. and i make no bones about the fact that we have a separate organization. true the vote, though, has continued to be and will always
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be nonpartisan. we all should be able to agree about election integrity. >> reporter: and then there's this. the group says it is now mobilizing a million poll watchers to go to voting places around the country this coming tuesday. these are their recruiting and training videos. the problem, critics say, is that those poll watchers are mostly white and many of the polling places they will target are mostly black. it happened in texas back in 2010. >> i think it's just coming from that particular party, trying to intimidate the voters. >> reporter: how do you respond to those complaints? >> we take those very seriously. and we look into them. here in houston, you can talk to our county attorney who will tell you that they are all completely unfounded. >> reporter: we did talk to the county attorney and he said he found several legitimate complaints, he also said that when he went to yours offices, he saw evidence that you were targeting minority
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neighborhoods. >> really? >> reporter: were people being disruptive? >> some of them were. >> reporter: was there a racial component here? >> well, i hate to attach that, but it does appear that there was that. >> reporter: the county attorney's office directed us to this early voting place in houston, where we spotted these poll watchers in a predominantly black neighborhood. this was just last week and the complaints had already begun. >> they are trying to find any and everything to stop citizens from voting. >> reporter: but here's the twist. study after study has found voter fraud to be virtually nonexiste nonexistent. there was one study that found that voter fraud happens as much as people getting hit and killed by lightning and another study in 2005 showed that the federal government was charging more americans with violating migratory bird statutes than election fraud. >> what we've experienced suggests there's room for inprovement. >> reporter: has your system turned up one clear-cut case that you can name right now of
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obvious fraud? >> i think the last thing that we turned in to the counties that we actually turned in, i think were 33 names. however, we're looking at close to 2,000 that have almost identical matches. >> reporter: but even if all 2,000 cases turn out to be outright, obvious fraud, that's 2,000 cases in a country where tens of million people vote. >> well, it's the same country that in 2000 elected a president based on 537 votes. >> reporter: lots of people agree with her and they will be flooding the polls places across the country this election day. as for teresa sharp, the county threw out the challenge against her and just the other day, she voted early, without incident. >> too many people sacrifice their life for me to have that opportunity. >> reporter: for "nightline," this is dan harris in hamilton county, ohio.assed about my ski. [ designer ] enough of just covering up my moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. i decided enough is enough.
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as election day closes in, over 5 million people in virginia have become some of the nation's most crucial voters, so, my co-anchor bill weir set out to find out what could help sway their choice at the polls for your voice, your vote, battleground virginia. >> reporter: in deep blue and red corners of this land, one might have the luxury of tuning out this election. but not in louden county, virginia. >> i'm barack obama, candidate for president. >> i'm mitt romney, i'm running for president. >> and i approve this message. >> reporter: just outside d.c., this is where government workers raise family and take salsa
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lessons while the native good old boys shake their heads at all that traffic and new mcmansions. >> probably a little bit less friendly than it used to be. >> reporter: people have been yapping politics at the leesburg restaurant since 1865, but this year, it seems the passion is hotter than the grits. >> we're not moving forward. we're moving backwards. take a look at the unemployment. take a look at where we are as a nation. look at our foreign policy. look at what just happened overseas. where was the president when that happened? i'm embarrassed. >> i'm staying behind obama and if he's listening, this is what i want him to hear. >> reporter: what? >> he should say to his voters, i can do it right or i can do it fast. do it right. four years? after all those years of -- good morning. >> reporter: colonel, did she upset you? >> if you are republican or
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democrat, we can still shake hands over a great breakfast. >> absolutely. see? >> reporter: a lot of people say that louden county is more divided than ever. well, here's proof that it is definitely not. 161 years ago this month, americans were killing each other, right here. >> keep in mind, this battle here was lost by the union. the confederate element, it still kind of an undercurrent. we don't think it's right. >> from an enthusiasm standpoint, i would say mitt romney's camp is perhaps a little louder, a little more voel vocal. >> reporter: really? >> but from strict numbers, i think it's even. ♪ >> someone pick out a song, everybody else will just chime

ABC November 1, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am EDT

News/Business. Cynthia McFadden, Terry Moran, Bill Weir. (2012) New. (CC)

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